“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.” – Anne Frank
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
I recently had an excruciating fall semester. I’ve been working on my master’s degree one or two classes at a time while working full-time. “I am not a good student.” Has been the story of my entire life. It’s something I accepted early on and I allowed that story to be solidified by how I reacted to the words of others. One particular case happened when I was first in college. I am a slow reader and it is difficult for me to retain what I have read. I was in a history class that required extensive reading from a large book with very small print. I was falling behind so I went to my instructor for help. I was informed by that instructor that because of my mediocre grades in high school, my ACTs and my GPA at the time, it would not be possible for me to pass the class and there wasn’t anything that could help me. And of course, he was right. I showed no outward emotion during or after this encounter, I just internalized the discouragement and the perpetual story that I lacked intelligence. I left college after two years.
Many years have passed since that time, I have had been able to rise above that story, due to the encouragement of loved ones. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader and I probably would have never obtained my bachelor’s degree had it not been for his encouragement along with the support of family, friends and faculty members.
Last fall I added teaching English as a Second Language in the evenings to my already busy schedule for the valuable experience it would provide. I looked in the mirror and gave myself a lecture, reminding myself that all the things I’m doing are things I love and that I should just do the best I can and not get stressed out. If I didn’t get an A in my class, it would be okay. I was on track to graduate in May 2018 and I thought I could handle it.
When my dad broke his hip, I considered dropping my class, but with support from my loved ones, I carried on. Toward the end of the semester, I became anxiety ridden. Some old skeletons came out of the closet to haunt me. Perfectionism, not that everything has to be perfect, but that nothing I do is ever good enough, showed up at the most inconvenient time. I became hard and demanding on myself. I was devastated because my paper was too short and I didn’t have enough mental capacity left to finished it.
I went to my counselor expecting sympathy. I didn’t get any. What I did get, however, was encouragement. I was able to go back home and complete my paper to an acceptable degree. I felt so much better. I highly recommend a good, encouraging counselor.
In September, someone posted a challenge on Facebook. Write a letter to yourself on October 1 that you would not open until January 1. I wrote that letter of encouragement by hand with a pen on beautiful stationery, as if I was writing to someone else.
Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“… I wish I was reading a letter from you, Julie-a-few-months-from-now. I wish I could hear you tell me that I survived the next three grueling months. I’m overwhelmed by the work that is ahead of me.
“But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? And we survived those times and I know when you read this, you will be overcome with gratitude. This has been a hard year…But when you read this, you… will have completed an entire semester of teaching ESL. Can you believe you are a real teacher now? So much hard work has gone into this and I am truly proud of you.
“I just want to remind you of all the hard things that you have already done so that you know that you are almost there.
“I feel the pain now, but I know when you read this, you will feel the joy of accomplishment. You are a doer, not just a talker and I am so proud of that.
“Keep your chin up – your Heavenly Father is smiling.
“With much love, Julie”
When I read this letter to myself, I was taken back. I was honestly shocked that it was so encouraging. I cried. I can’t even read it now without crying. I don’t know why it is so hard to be kind to myself and to accept kindness from myself. Why am I harsh with myself when I would never be that way with others?
Encouragement is a powerful force. Give it to yourself and allow yourself to accept it.
Last semester was so difficult that I decided not to take a class this semester. I was willing to postpone my graduation indefinitely, maybe forever, I didn’t really care, I just wanted my life back. But something interesting happened. A faculty member encouraged me. She heard me talking about a project I’m working on with much passion. She suggested I incorporate it into my degree.
I’m back in the game this semester, but I’m going to make some changes. I’m going to be honest with myself and others, asking for help when I need it. I’m going to look at myself in the mirror and encourage rather than lecture, and I’m going to write myself more encouraging notes.
How can you encourage yourself?